Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Julian Kent



Julian Kent: Everyday Life

Grey Gardens, 2023







A self-taught artist in his early twenties, Kent makes imagined portraits of people caught in the complexities of everyday realities, within the scope of the Black experience. Kent sees his work as “sociological studies of human emotions.”
“The theme for the paintings in my first show derives from my interest in the complexity of mundane moments and everyday Black lives. In a previous series much of my work dealt with Black history, colonialism and identity, but soon I found myself increasingly interested in observing the people of Brooklyn and the lives of strangers on the train, or in passing. There was a natural movement into reconstructing my observations through fictional characters.


Untitled, 2023

The shift in subject matter also happened in part due to societies increased awareness of the social and historical context of black people and the array of artists and thinkers who have and continue to cover the subject in such a masterful manner. Knowing this allowed me to step back and look for a different way to contextualize the Black experience, choosing instead to focus on the humanity within Black interior lives. All the while simultaneously looking to understand the human condition in a general sense.
Another element that I explore in my work is the interaction between color, nature, space and the senses. Painting has been a way to process the constant impressions that I take in throughout the day. Whether that be pastel-colored housing-tile or the space between a book and a candle.


Summer Cottage Maine, 2023

My work is informed by films such as those by Mike Leigh and Edward Yang. I find the distinctive humanist quality to their respective bodies of work extremely moving. These directors along with writers like Fyodor Dostoevsky and Toni Morrison have been instrumental in how I approach the characters in my work. Additionally, painters such as Jacob Lawrence, Chaim Soutine, and Alice Neel have also been major influences. The different ways they have extended the possibilities of figuration and painting in a general sense pushed me to see if I myself could find a new way to extend figuration as well.


Collect Call, 2023

With the characters in my paintings, I’m seeking to understand the psychological undertones of a singular emotion or instance by exploring how each exterior moment is charged and influenced by one’s interior reality. I feel that each little expression and gesture are rich with the history or nature of an individual. I want these paintings to feel lived in like a glimpse into the day to day of these characters.”
– Julian Kent